A PROPOSED police merger would allow for 'borderless policing' - but neighbourhood officers aren't going anywhere, officials say.

Plans for a merger between Dorset Police and Devon and Cornwall Police could create the largest rural and coastal force in the UK. Advocates believe the new force will be more "resilient and efficient".

And Dorset's chief constable, James Vaughan, said he is committed to keeping officers at the heart of communities across Dorset.

"If the forces merge, we will be able to reduce duplication for maximum efficiency," he said.

"It means we would be able to further invest in some of our most difficult and emerging threats, such as counter terrorism, serious and organised crime, drug dealing, child sexual exploitation, cyber crime and modern slavery.

"Some of those things were even really considered to be crimes five years ago, but today we know they're among the most harmful issues in society."

If the merger is approved, the new force would be responsible for some two-and-a-half million permanent residents across the three counties.

"The public in Dorset enjoy and value uniformed, visible, connected officers," Chief Constable Vaughan said.

"They don't enjoy as many as they would like. I appreciate the public will always seek uniformed policing in their communities.

"I have to balance what the public wants with what they need to keep them safe.

"Neighbourhood policing teams provide the public with an effective response to meet that need."

Under the new merger, there would be less reliance on mutual aid arrangements. The arrangement is an agreement among emergency responders, and in particular police forces, to lend assistance across jurisdictional boundaries.

Chief Constable Vaughan said: "For example, if AFC Bournemouth were playing Southampton, and we needed extra officers, I'm unlikely to have to go to a mutual aid arrangement under a merger - I could bring officers in from Exeter.

"We would have a more flexible resource.

"The public may be worried that they will be worse off as the result of a merger. People in Christchurch might think their officers will be down in Exeter or Plymouth all the time.

"I can give people a very clear reassurance that will not be the case. A merger enables me to anchor people in communities and prevents me having the move people around to fill gaps."

Dorset's police and crime commissioner Martyn Underhill said some jobs - including IT support and police communications - already "work across borders".

"At the moment, 25 per cent of staff work across both forces," he said.

"I don't see this as reducing neighbourhood policing teams - I see it as increasing them.

"We cannot lose our neighbourhood teams."

To comment on the merger, visit futurepolicing.co.uk until Monday, August 27 to complete a survey.

The results of the survey will form part of a business case which will be submitted to the Home Office in the autumn.